So… this is the birth story, it’s really long.. but thats what you get from a 36 hour labor! I apologize for grammatical errors and the times are estimates. Pictures at the end.. labor pictures to come later..
From the very beginning, I knew this pregnancy was different. After a series of miscarriages, this pregnancy felt different from the others. We weren’t trying, and obviously we were effectively preventing. So after a LONG road trip from Connecticut to Florida in August, I just knew something was up. I got home and immediately Jimmy and I were in some petty argument. For some bizarre reason I thought to myself I should take a pregnancy test. Sure enough, clear as day, it was positive. Like, pee didn’t even dry on the stick positive. So my anger turned to tears and I came to Jimmy crying, telling him “I’m so sorry...we’re pregnant again.” We both were kind of shocked and started laughing, because whatever we were fighting about quickly wasn’t priority.
We had decided after the last miscarriage, that we were going to allow God to be in control of the next pregnancy. No medical intervention, research or tests. I knew I needed to be on a progesterone supplement, so that was the only thing I needed. To ease my mind, I did get blood tests done to make sure my levels were rising, properly and watching my progesterone levels. At about 7 weeks I had my first ultrasound. My heart couldn’t have been ready to burst anymore waiting to see the heartbeat. When the little flicker on the screen came into focus, I was beyond relieved to see a real baby in there. After that one last appointment with my OB, I decided that using a Midwife for a homebirth was the route I wanted.
At first I really wanted the gender to be a surprise. I was adamant about it. Had grand plans of a gender reveal home “birth” day party. But, the Lord changed my heart. So many people around me were experiencing late term losses. I couldn’t bear to think that if this is the only time I have with this child, I want to know who they are. So at 16 weeks, we found out we were expecting a little girl! My first response after they said girl was, “Oh Drama!”... but quickly that turned into pure bliss and excitement. We really really thought she would be a boy!
I had it easy with pregnancy. I had no major issues. The only complaints I had were fatigue, heartburn & just having the sorest knees I’ve ever experienced. It was like I had run 5 miles every day. So towards the end of the pregnancy, I was just extra sore, swollen & ready to get her out.
I really thought she would come early or on time, not late. But the Lord knew when she needed to come. Her due date was Easter weekend. Since Jimmy is a musician, Easter weekend is a big weekend for him to be playing at church services. Good friday I went to church and saw my guy play with one of my favorite christian artists, Sandra McCracken. I knew I was beyond pregnant at that point, because she was doing a concert that started at 10pm and I just couldn’t do it. Of course, all Jimmy’s bandmates jokingly asked if I can keep her in there until Sunday afternoon. Hah.
Easter Weekend was kind of when everything started moving forward. Saturday, we woke up and went for a 3 mile walk, had a late breakfast and just spent time together before Jimmy had to be up at the church for service/rehearsal. We came home and tried to get labor started (in the marital sense). I think at some point after I think my water broke. Now, mind you I am in denial and skeptical that it was my water. But nonetheless other things fall out and give me cues that maybe it was my water. I text jimmy that I think my water broke, but don’t rush home - do your service, because I am having contractions. So I text my midwife and tell her what’s going on, and luckily I was able to just drive up and meet her at her house and have her check. The test came back negative, so she checked my cervix. I was finally 1cm dilated & 30% effaced. So I go home and rest, semi frustrated that it wasn’t my water.
Easter Sunday, though I was having contractions, I wanted to go to church. So I drove the 35 mins to see Jimmy play his service and then I went to my church to see friends and family. I knew I was having contractions and not feeling super amazing, so I sat in the cry room in a rocking chair. By the time I got home Easter afternoon I just was exhausted and knew I needed to rest, the body is funny like that! Cue more contractions all through out the night. Monday morning, I make Jimmy help get the labor started (in the marital sense) again. And sure enough, I lost more of the mucous plug. And started having contractions, but nothing to text anyone about. So I made myself sleep all day, and then I went to Target with a friend. Got some last minute groceries I knew I would be needing. Got home around 5pm, and had dinner of some sort.
We started watching “What to Expect when You’re Expecting”, and sure enough I started having more contractions. Finally, the ones I could time. So I sat on the birth ball, watching the movie, and time contractions. I texted the midwives to give them a heads up, but since they stayed at 7-10 minutes apart, they told me to get some sleep. I really should’ve listened. I was so desperate for this to be the real deal, that I didn’t want the labor to stop. So they were around 3-7 minutes apart around 11pm, but still not consistent. So I tried sleeping from 12-2am and 3-7am. Jimmy was going to work the next day, so he slept on the couch. By 7am I wasn’t really in consistent contractions, so I planned on driving up to my originally scheduled appointment for 9:30am.. I made Jimmy drive me the 45 minutes up there.
Tuesday morning, I am at 40 wks 6 days pregnant. So, we do all my vital signs and check the baby’s heart and everything looks great and healthy! We check my cervix, and sure enough I am 4-5 cm dilated and 60-70% effaced. I just knew today was the day! I was so relieved that all the contractions I had the night before were early labor. So they had me head home, have a good meal and get some rest. I tried napping from noon till 1, but since they checked me and swept the membranes, I was having harsh contractions. They had me using the breast pump to get contractions started. By 2pm, I was on the pump watching “Call the Midwife” and having contractions like crazy. By 3pm, they were stronger and consistently 2-5 minutes apart. Called the midwives, husband and photographer. By 4:30/5pm the birth team was here and the party was about to get started.
From about 5pm until 11pm I labored. I walked, bounced on the birth ball, side laying in bed, squatting, lunges, you name the position, I tried it. The thing I remember the most from the contractions was how painful they were, and how as much as I tried I could NOT relax. So basically every contraction I braced myself and wasn’t working with them. I realize now, that is why my labor took as long as it did. I knew the contractions were getting really bad when I couldn’t just breathe through them, I had to hum or moan through them. It was almost a whimper because they took my breath away. The hardest part for me was knowing that EVERY position change brought on a contraction. The most powerful contractions happened when I was laying down. I didn’t want to change positions. I didn’t want to stand up. I didn’t want to risk having another hard contraction. But, I had to. By midnight I had only progressed to 7cm. So the birth team had me and Jimmy go and “rest” for a little while. My contractions had spaced out to 7-10 mins apart, this is what they said was plateau. I probably thought I was going to cry. Because I didn’t want this to take any longer than it had to. We rested, as well as I could since I was still having strong contractions, from about midnight-1:30am. They had taken my phone away at this time, so I didn’t have my music I wanted - but I also didn’t have the distraction of people texting me. As I was laying down I felt the urge to get up and start swaying my hips and walking. I knew that I had 3 cms to get through.
As I walked laps around the house, I made Jimmy start timing the contractions. I realized at my pace, 2 laps was what I needed until the next contraction. These were probably the most intense ones, but squatting and swaying the hips was how I had to get through it. This was the part of the labor where I really had to seek the Lord and give myself a pep talk. I had to remind myself that there is no turning back, this has to happen, that each contraction I relax into it the more baby girl had to drop. By this time, any modesty I was having was gone. I just had to loosen up and be ok with making noise and moving in a way that is not in my nature. After about 2 hours of walking, squatting, lunging and swaying, my birth team woke up and got to work. They let Jimmy sleep and they helped me through contractions. They had me start taking oils, and other homeopathic pills to continue getting these contractions consistent. This was probably the hardest part of labor. I remember at one point hysterically crying because I couldn’t find a comfortable position to labor in, because really what you want most in labor is to find something to help with the pain. I looked at my midwife and said I totally understand why women get epidurals.
Between 3-4:30 am, I had the hardest part. The contractions were not only in my lower abdomen, they were also radiating into my hips and lower back. So each contraction, my hips were on fire in pain. I wanted to give up so bad. I didn’t know what that would even look like, because I knew I didn’t want to go to the hospital. I just was ready for her to be out. To be done.
My amazing midwives kept asking me what my fears were, praying for me, listening to worship music, and just being there helping me relax when I really couldn’t. Around 4:30, they checked me again, 9cm!! Praise jesus. One of the midwives came in and started stretching me to 10cm. It was crazy, because as she was in there working on my cervix, I was still having contractions. By 5:15am, I was expected to start pushing.
At this point, I have maybe had 3-5 hours of sleep since Monday and here we are early Wednesday morning. The whole team was tired, just plain exhausted. We were all trying to sleep in between intense contractions. So when it came time to push, it took me about an hour or so to get the hang of it. I wasn’t giving good pushes at the beginning. We had the birthing stool, I did lunges, and even sat on the toilet. The best pushing I did was on the toilet and birthing stool. Around 7am, they moved me to the bed and set me up to be there pushing for a while. I finally was giving good pushes, but in between contractions I was literally passing out so tired. Jimmy says that was the hardest part of watching me. I was swollen, a mess, and visibly weak. Around 7:30am, Leah (midwife), looked at me and said that I had been pushing for almost 2.5 hours and if we didn’t get this girl out in the next few pushes, were going to have to look into transfer. I think when she said that in my mind I was like, “Aw, hell no. I haven’t made it to 10 cm and can see the head to have to go to the hospital.” The next few pushes were probably the hardest moments. The final push took everything within me to keep the push going to get her out. I started to scream as she came out, “She’s tearing me”.. Which I can only guess is the only adequate feeling you can describe as you push a baby out.
At 7:59 am, April 23 2014, Ellis Jules was born at 41 weeks exactly. My 8lb 5oz, 21 inches long little world changer made her debut. She was immediately placed on my chest. Jimmy described the look I had was being in shock. He said that the mixture of pushing, exhaustion and a warm body on my chest had me looking confused. He said I looked around at my birth team as if, “what the hell is this”. It was moments that felt like a lifetime. My first words to her screaming little self, was “sweet baby girl, you’re here”. She came out crying, no cord wrapped around the neck, but covered in meconium. I guess there was a ton of meconium because they kept wiping her off with towels and suctioning stuff out of her mouth. We couldn’t pull her far because the cord had a snag in it. I saw what looked like a knot, but it wasn’t a true knot. The amniotic sac was covered with meconium. We still didn’t know when my water broke, so at this point I am only slightly worried that I never experienced a water breaking moment. That first shower was glorious. I didn’t tear at all. I only had a small papercut down there.
36 hours of labor, almost 3 hours of pushing and 1 sweet little girl makes this story so special. I remember at a certain point the reward I had in my mind was two things. I would be able to finally take pictures of MY own child and I could lay in bed and snuggle her all day. I didn’t realize that once she was here, the first few hours was like I had a stranger with me. I also was just plain relieved to not be in labor anymore. I could turn over and stand up and change positions without fear of pain. I wanted to hold her, but I also wanted to just lay next to her and observe her. As the hours go on, the more I just want to hold her and fall more and more in love with her.
So a few thoughts on this whole unmedicated, natural home birth deal. To say I loved it is an overstatement. It was hard, it was labor. It would be what I would have to go through again, even in the hospital. I am satisfied with my choice. I do feel a bit like a warrior mom. But, I also think any woman who has to go through labor is on the same level as me. Everyone says they’re so proud that I did it. I am proud, but I think I know that it had to happen. I think everyone’s recovery is different. I am beyond blessed that I have felt good enough to walk around and be out of bed. Day 2 I even showered and shaved my legs. I have been trying to rest when the baby rests, but sometimes (like now), it’s nice to watch her sleep and catch up on life a little bit. The big question, would I do a homebirth again? Answer-- ask me when labor isn’t so fresh on my mind. But I can guarantee you, it’s probably a yes.